It turns out Geoffrey Beene's love affair with Vienna is mutual. The American ambassador to Austria, Helene von Damm, has invited Beene to show his spring collection at the embassy residence there in March. It follows by a few days another invitation Beene has to show his collection in Munich, Germany, under the sponsorship of the prestige German fashion publication, Madame magazine. He has accepted both and will be taking eight American models to Austria and Germany for his shows.
Beene went to Vienna first 20 years ago, but remembers mostly bad weather and bad political vibes. "Vienna was lovely but I wasn't in good spirits," he recalls.
He returned a year ago and fell in love with the city. "I had been to London, Paris and Milan and those cities lacked energy. There was a sameness about them. I felt I had to move on and chose Vienna because it was just 45 minutes away."
In contrast to his first trip, "Vienna seemed happy with itself -- and you can't say that about many cities. People seemed to care about people, to take time to be interested in and help people."
What spilled over in a fashion sense, says Beene, "was not at all the Vienna of the Viennese waltz, but modern things, the old without a clash with the modern." He discovered beautiful belts in a shop window, for example, and found they were made by hand. He bought every one and then ordered hundreds more, all done with great respect for craftsmanship.
"The women in Vienna seem to be less aggressive than in other capitals. They have helped me redefine femininity in my clothes," said Beene. "They respect the modern view of a woman's position, and yet those women manage to keep their charm and their femininity. Unlike other capitals, the women seem to be professional without acquiring the aggressiveness apparent in other major capital cities."
These shows will take place just one month before Beene presents his next fall collection in New York. "It doesn't matter," said the designer. "I'm so flattered I couldn't refuse the honor."